Approaching an entirely new type of cuisine and culture can be intimidating. Everything from the methods of cooking to the ingredients used can appear, at first, very different from what you are already familiar with. One such area of the world is West Africa, whose cuisine is so vibrant and flavourful that it can be understandably overwhelming for British cooks to learn about.
While certain names, such as the Nigerian efo riro, might seem intimidating and certain ingredients potentially hard to source, like uda pods, the reality is quite different. In fact, not only are West African dishes becoming increasingly more popular across the international food scene but a greater number of ingredients and dishes are being exported, meaning that they are more accessible than ever before.
The Variety of Spice
West African food is full of exciting heat, one that manifests itself through a wide array of spices. Chillies, cumin, and grains of paradise are frequently found in dishes and it would be worth stocking your cupboards with these staples. Spices are often mixed with herbs and nuts to create signature blends, like dukkah and suya, that are then used to coat and infuse ingredients, giving them a smokey, complex taste that cannot be found elsewhere.
Many of these blends can be purchased from African food stores across the UK. However, if you’re struggling to find such products, then don’t fret! Simply look for the individual ingredients and make your own. You’ll be surprised at how simple fragrant and tasty dukkah is to create!
Served With Rice
Rice is not only important for its abundance across West Africa, continuing to be an essential part of the nation’s diet and industry, but also for its cultural significance as the key ingredient of the iconic dish – jollof rice. Rice is ubiquitous within restaurants and homes, served either as part of the main course or as an ever-present side. So, before you begin seeking new West African recipes, be sure to have a good stock of rice at home.
West African rice dishes, such as jollof rice by VaroFoods, can now be found in supermarkets, making it easier than ever to sample the flavours of Ghana and Nigeria. Keep in mind, however, jollof rice recipes can differ greatly and there is a heated debate about which version is the best!
Meats of All Kinds
Meat is now a widely celebrated part of the West African diet and many iconic dishes, especially those that are grilled, contain delicious cuts of meat. Beef and chicken are popular but it is fish and goat that you’ll find appearing on most menus. Additionally, you may also find cuts of meat that would, within British gastronomy, fall under the category of offal. These ingredients, such as tripe and skin, are often cooked slow, allowing sauces and rice to draw out their delicious flavours and nutrition.
If you’re interested in recreating these authentic dishes, then speak to any reputable butcher, who will certainly be able to source the right cuts of meat that you require.